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August 24, 2013

Filmmaker following Rockporter, fellow troupers

While working on comedy shows in Los Angeles, cinematographer Alex Lehmann started to notice that he was hearing a lot of humor based on autism and Asperger’s syndrome.

“People like to make jokes about things they don’t quite understand,” Lehmann said.

Eager to understand more himself, Lehmann began researching comedy and autism on the Internet. That’s when he came across Asperger’s Are Us, the North Shore-based comedy troupe featuring four men with Asperger’s syndrome.

Lehmann reached out to the group and has been filming them for the past two months for a documentary with the working title “Don’t Overthink It.”

“It relates to some of the absurdist comedy the guys do,” Lehmann said. “They’ve been teaching me a lot about Asperger’s and autism, a little bit through their comedy and just who they are.”

“The guys” are Ethan Finlan of Rockport, Jack Hanke of Newburyport, Noah Britton of Salem, and New Michael Ingemi of Beverly.

A big part of the documentary is focused on the writing and production of the troupe’s show today at the Firehouse Center for the Arts in Newburyport. The performance is sort of a farewell for the group, which will be taking a nine-month hiatus while Hanke studies at Oxford University in England.

The four members of Asperger’s Are Us met eight years ago when Hanke, Ingemi and Finlan were 12-year-olds attending a local camp for children with Asperger’s, an autism spectrum disorder characterized by difficulties with social interaction and communication. Britton, who is now 30, was their counselor.

They have been performing together for about three years, during which their popularity has grown significantly. Asperger’s Are Us has presented shows in Massachusetts, New York and Vermont and last year was featured in the Out of Bounds Comedy Festival in Texas.

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